Ready to Fight & Win - Tonight AND Tomorrow

The Cavalry & Armor Journal
By Bill Guyan

Bill GuyanOctober 2019 -- American military history is full of painful examples of costly “first battle” losses for a less-than-ready American Army.  Today, the nation once again faces an unsettled world with a number of threats, some that are near-term and others that seem likely to present us with a generation of lethal challenges from peer and near-peer nation state competitors.  Because America’s foes will not provide the luxury of “time to get ready”, the Army must be ready to fight and win future “first battles”, whenever they may come. 

The defense of our freedom requires vigilant attention to force readiness.  In the best circumstance, our Army’s recognized and credible readiness will serve to deter adversaries from challenging America and her Allies.  In other starker scenarios, our Army’s readiness will enable decisive overmatch and the rapid defeat of our enemies.  The Roman saying, “Si vis pacem, para bellum” – if you want peace, prepare for war – remains true. As echoed in the 2018 National Defense Strategy, “The willingness of rivals to abandon aggression will depend on their perception of U.S. strength…”

The Army must be ready to “fight tonight” AND fight tomorrow – prepared to win anytime, anywhere.   The current legacy force cannot be ignored and the future force can no longer be deferred. The Army does not have the luxury of selecting readiness today OR readiness tomorrow. In a dangerous world, the American Army must always be ready. We must ask ourselves, what else can be done to help the Army with this two-headed modernization challenge?

Congress also has a critical role to play in Army readiness and modernization. The success of the Army and its dynamic modernization drive depends upon a continued and predictable level of funding for necessary operations, maintenance, training, R&D and procurement. Congress must do its share to enable Army readiness by delivering realistic and on-time defense budget approvals, discontinuing recent habitual default to the inefficiencies of start-stop continuing resolutions. Most importantly, Congress must rise above party politics for the good of our national defense, by working in a truly bi-partisan way to do everything possible to avoid the return of BCA and crippling sequester.  As Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis not so subtly noted in February 2018 testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, “No enemy in the field has done as much harm to the readiness of the U.S. Military than the combined impact of the Budget Control Acts defense spending caps.” Our citizen voting workforce, our legislative affairs teams and our industry associations can work together to ensure that Congress understands the imperative of providing our Army with the timely and adequate resources needed to modernize and stay ready.

How Else Can Our Industry Help the Army?

  • Supporting Army efforts toward rapid, flexible procurement by preparing to participate in OTA opportunities by joining relevant industry consortiums. Helping to keep things moving quickly by raising concerns, if any, early in the process to improve the process and avoid program procurement delays.
  • Aggressive implementation of Cyber guidelines and supply chain risk management standards to ensure that our products and systems are delivered without compromised designs and/or the Achilles heel of cyber vulnerability. The best systems in the world, when deployed with Army soldiers, must be trusted and dependable in the face of cyber threats and contested environments.
  • Alignment of industry’s internal research and development (IRAD) with Army modernization priorities and capability gaps. Our businesses should consider the benefits of developing a strategic funnel of promising and demonstrable overmatch technologies that can address both immediate and anticipated future capability gaps. If Industry’s R&D is aligned with the Army’s R&D, we can accelerate capability advances to more quickly close critical gaps AND we can better ensure the ROI of our investments.
  • Reach internally across the broad portfolios of medium and large defense companies to identify technologies and capabilities that could be cross-pollinated to address Army cross-domain challenges. Identify which systems or technologies, already used by the Air Force, Navy or Intelligence communities, could be rapidly adopted, adapted and transplanted for use by the Army. We can help by ensuring that organizational “not-invented-here” thinking does not act as a speed-bump or roadblock to Army’s modernization.
  • Embrace innovative teaming strategies to deliver best of breed solutions with reduced time to fielding. This includes innovative outreach and engagement with small businesses, non-traditional commercial enterprise, and the diverse range of increasingly capable defense companies from allied and friendly foreign countries. Public-private partnerships with Army Depots also provide industry the opportunity to leverage an extensive base of expertise and experience, manpower and world-class industrial/depot capacity.
  • Adopting new internal practices that incentivize innovation and provide opportunities for bottoms-up development & presentation of new technologies & ideas. We need to generate the same enthusiasm that surrounds the hunt for venture capital start-up funding. The insertion of new internal competitive dynamics can help to spur out-of-the box thinking and provide the rewards of senior management attention/support and critical jump-start funding. We need to improve the opportunities for new idea identification, nurturing and adoption.

The Army Can Help Industry By….

  • Continuing the refreshing efforts already underway to outreach to industry and engage through CFTs, PEOs and senior leadership. American Industry is a force multiplier that welcomes the opportunity to be treated as a true partner in efforts to keep our Army ready. Working-group formatted engagements with focused topics, like the C4ISR-sponsored Network Symposiums and the Senior Executive Round Tables forums sponsored by Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA), are both good examples of how Army-Industry collaboration can be taken to the next level.
  • The Army can expand the quality of dialogue with industry by sharing results of the Strategic Portfolio Analysis Review process. This could help to avoid the opportunity cost associated with industry attention spent on areas of lower priority with little, if any, funding availability. Providing enhanced situational awareness to industry enables better business decision making and resource allocation – permitting us to remain better aligned with Army priorities, with similarly prioritized dedication of resources. 
  • Seeking industry feedback throughout the process of the full stand-up of the Army Futures Command. The way we in industry do business with the Army will need to evolve to stay in step with the changes that are made to the roles and missions of various Army organizations. As with most complex change, we should expect that not all will go as planned and there will also be some unintended consequences. Industry feedback can serve as part of the Army’s early warning system to identify the needed tweaks and changes necessary to optimize the effectiveness of its new four-star command.
  • By considering cloning of the successful Horizontal Technology Initiative (HTI) model successfully employed with combat vehicle 2nd Generation FLIR systems. Challenge industry to identify and develop common overmatch technologies that can be used to enhance legacy platforms while also being integrated into next generation capabilities and platforms. Even the most aggressive of modernization plans has our legacy platforms, like Bradley, remaining in the fleet for decades alongside newly fielded next generation capabilities, like NGCV/OMFV. Determined efforts to cultivate horizontal overmatch technologies will save costs associated with procurement, training, integration and sustainment and may permit the Army to avoid having to make many difficult choices between the upgrade of legacy systems or the fielding new ones.
  • Through continued efforts to identify and remove the roadblocks and speed-bumps related to leveraging mature foreign technologies for adaption and U.S.-based integration/production. This includes engagement with State Department and Congress to eliminate regulatory and policy barriers and streamline the technology exchange and import licensing processing in cases where industry is trying to pull promising overmatch technologies into the United States.  Consideration should be given to a regime of fast-track approvals for critical defense technology pull-ins from certain allied and friendly nations.
  • By expanding the interoperability and future-proofing of systems by following the CIO/G6 Common Operating Environment (COE) Initiatives and the VICTORY standards for platform C4ISR Systems. Explore potential adoption of components of the U.K. Generic Vehicle Architecture (GVA) standards as a way to enhance current efforts, and enable allied systems interoperability/commonality. 
  • The Army can also work to protect the enabling potential of OTA contracting though continuously enhancing the policies, guidelines and training aimed at ensuring fairness, improving transparency, and promoting competition. OTA contracting is a valuable tool in the Army’s effort to rapidly innovate and modernize; however, the tangible benefits provided by an “outside-the-FAR” streamlined process also present the risk of misuse or abuse. Industry looks at OTA contracting as a double-edged sword. We applaud its simplicity and demonstrated ability to permit rapid on-ramping of new and promising technologies; on the other hand, we are anxious that potential lapses in transparency or fairness could cause real business harm and erode confidence in the integrity of the procurement process. The speed of OTA contracting combined with the absence of traditional FAR safeguards, and process, makes it all the more imperative that every effort be made to ensure transparency and avoid even the appearance of unfair competition.

Ensuring readiness today and enhanced lethality tomorrow is a difficult challenge, but the Army-Industry team have a proud and successful history of overcoming daunting challenges by putting the “Arsenal of Democracy” to work. As the Army marches toward improved readiness and lethality, it follows an azimuth of rapid and innovative modernization that challenges the status quo on all fronts. Our industry must be prepared to partner with the Army - and do the same.